BELECTRIC, FIRST SOLAR CONNECT UK’S LARGEST SOLAR FARM TO GRID
46 MWp solar farm with continued sheep grazing and biodiversity enhancement
BELECTRIC UK and First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) have connected the United Kingdom’s largest solar farm to the grid. The 46 megawatts (MWDC) Landmead Solar Farm, in East Hanney near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, will supply around 45 million kWh (kilowatt hours) of clean energy per year — enough to power 14,000 average homes or drive an electric vehicle 5,000 times around the globe, each year, for the next 25 years. The plant will displace an estimated 20 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
The Landmead Solar Farm is the latest in a series of joint ventures between BELECTRIC, which designed and constructed the installation, and First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems. In just three months, BELECTRIC installed more than 483,000 of First Solar’s advanced thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules on 200 acres of low-quality, Grade 3 agricultural land that has historically failed to drain quickly enough for efficient crop production.
“Thanks to the scale of its contribution towards helping the UK achieve its energy security goals, Landmead is the latest milestone in the country’s renewable energy roadmap. Enabled by advanced PV technology that is both efficient and cost competitive, it establishes a new benchmark for the development of solar energy in Britain,” said Christopher Burghardt, Vice President for Europe at First Solar.
Landmead Solar Farm remains integrated with its surrounding farmland, and 95% of the land remains materially unchanged by the installation of solar modules and infrastructure. The site, therefore, retains the capability for continued agricultural use in the form of grazing sheep.
Toddington Harper, CEO of BELECTRIC UK, said: “The opening of the UK’s biggest solar farm is good news for the country in a number ways. Politically and economically, large-scale solar energy makes us less dependent on imported fossil fuels, a lot of which come from unstable regions of the world at unstable prices. Then, from the environmental perspective, every kilowatt-hour of energy generated from sunlight prevents dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, while the low-grade agricultural land hosting the solar panels will be used to support wildlife, biodiversity and continued sheep farming. This is a prime example of the multiple benefits that best-in-class solar farm projects can deliver to the UK.”
As the majority of land is essentially unchanged, it will revert quickly to a natural state, while security measures will restrict public access. This makes the site well-suited to recreating the type of wildlife habitat that has been lost to agricultural intensification over the years, free from pesticides and human disturbance. As well as sheep grazing, BELECTRIC will be optimizing parts of Landmead to support biodiversity — for example, by planting native wildflowers to support bees and other pollinating insects, and introducing ground cover for small mammals and birds.
Landmead will be used for solar power generation, sheep farming and biodiversity enhancement for the next 25 years. After this, the solar modules and infrastructure will be removed and the site will be restored to its pre-existing state.
First Solar and BELECTRIC share a longstanding relationship that spans over a decade. In 2013, they realized Europe’s largest thin film PV power plant in Templin, Germany. Bringing together industry-leading capabilities and technologies, the two groups established a joint venture to realize selected utility-scale PV projects in Europe, North Africa and the United States.